You Mad, Bro?
What do we do as soon as our babies are born? We start talking to them. We
wait anxiously to hear ‘mama’ or ‘dada’. Usually, we hear ‘dada’ first,
don’t we? Dad gets to brag to everyone ‘Junior said dada first’! Even
though most babies make dadadada or babababa sounds before speaking their
The words eventually come and then flow from their sticky little mouths
without end. A torrent of words begin when they wake up and don’t stop
until they pass out. In fact, when they are toddlers and you don’t hear a
steady stream of words, then something off limits is being eaten or broken
or drawn on.
My baby boy is 16 years old and as I watch him grow into adulthood, I can’t
help but ask myself a question.
What happened to my son’s vocabulary?
I hate to brag (that’s only kind of true), but my youngest child has been scary smart since he was little. He said his first word at 7 months and had a vocabulary of about 30 words by the time he was 10 months old. He began reading at age three and read Animal Farm when he was in Kindergarten.
That last thing? Yeah, when I saw him reading Animal Farm, I thought I’m sure he’s reading the words, but he doesn’t get it. I asked him what he thought about the book and his response was: Pretty sure the pigs are going to take over.
Like I said, scary smart.
His vocabulary was out of this world. He loved words. He loved learning new words. And he never ever EVER stopped talking. I would give my left arm to hear my baby boy ask me a million questions in his four year old voice now, but back then? The questions grew tiring.
I remember one day, when he was around 4 years old, telling him that he was going to use up all his words. He said ‘What? What does that mean”? I told him that people only had so many words they could say and if they used them all up, when they got old, they wouldn’t be able to talk anymore. He looked at me and said “Mom, that’s preposterous”.
He wasn’t buying that multi-syllable words counted as two words in the total count, either.
We lived in a small Ohio town when my baby boy was four years old. We didn’t go anywhere without running into someone we knew. We were out for dinner one evening. I had a particularly rough day at work that day, dealing with a grumpy boss. Who also happened to be having dinner at the same restaurant with his wife.
My husband and I were friends with my boss and his wife and my son had been to their house a number of times. My son listened to me complain about my rotten day during dinner and how my boss could be a real douche when he was in a bad mood. Then, as we were leaving, we ran into my boss.
My son looked very sternly at my boss and told him that he was supercilious. My boss, who I could see was trying to not laugh, asked my son what supercilious meant. The boy looks at him and says dismissively ‘It means you think you’re better than everyone else’. Then, he asked him if we could go to his house and play Xbox.
He’s 16 now and he’s still wicked smart. But his vocabulary, well, it was better when he was 4. Mostly, he communicates in grunts and intermittent smells.
The one thing he says to me more than anything else is ‘You mad, bro’? Every time he says the phrase, I roll my eyes a little harder. Pretty soon I’m going to roll them hard enough to time travel. When I do, I’m going to go back in time, to when he was 4 and listen to him ask as many questions as he wants.
I remember when he couldn’t wait to see me when I came home from work. Now, when I call him, he answers with an annoyed “What”? I understand the ‘what’ just fine, but if I’m talking to him on the phone, it’s like listening to the adults talk on Charlie Brown. I’m not completely sure about this, but I think teenage boys stuff their mouths with marbles or cotton balls before speaking on cell phones. I think it’s punishment for parents for calling them instead of texting.
I understand what is happening, he is growing up and separating himself from us. His vocabulary is changing from learning to live to learning to leave. Sure, the thought makes me sad, but I am proud of the man he's becoming. He's quick-witted, kind, and can be sarcastic. He’s intelligent and well read. I’m sure he will suffer the setbacks that most young adults do. There will be some lessons he will learn the hard way. He’ll probably have at least one broken heart. But I’m not afraid for him. He’s going to be fine.
I’m sure there will come a day when I would give my left arm to hear ‘you mad, bro’?
Michelle Poston Combs is a blogger who lives in the Midwest with her
husband and her youngest son. She is at the precipice of learning to live
with an empty nest which she finds both terrifying and exhilarating.
Her blog, Rubber Shoes In Hell is where she writes about topics ranging from awkward conversations with strangers to learning how to overcome being an adult child of a narcissist. Michelle has appeared on numerous blogs as a guest writer, including The
Huffington Post. She programs computers to pay the bills and counters this soul sucking
endeavor by writing her observations on life, menopause, anxiety and marriage